The Taste of Snow

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Grandmom in our living room

This March morning, I’m almost blinded by the sun reflected off the snow still piled deep in my backyard. The day started in the single digits, proving the groundhog was right when he ducked back into his burrow to dream of spring, a spring that was far, far away. Unlike the groundhog, we humans have had to shovel and brave both the temperature and the traffic. But spring is coming. I can taste it in the air.

Long ago, there was a March blizzard that left my neighborhood in the cold and dark. Our house was the exception. We still had a coal furnace and a wood stove, so we were snug and fed. Four generations lived in our house, and we couldn’t afford to make the switch to an oil furnace. We had a large square grate in the doorway between the dining room and living room that allowed the heat of the furnace to rise into the living part of the home, a cozy spot for a four year old to play with dolls or look at books.

When the unseasonal storm began, Grandmom, my great-grandmother, went out and gathered fresh snow in the spaghetti dish, a large painted-ceramic bowl. My surprise must have shown when she brought what belonged outside into the house. She shushed my questions with a smile and a quick, “’spett.” I didn’t have to wait long. She mixed the snow with vanilla and sugar, transferred a scoop to a smaller bowl, and lifted a spoon to her mouth. Grandmom closed her eyes and smiled. Next, she told me, “Mangia.” I tentatively took the spoon from her hand, dipped out a morsel, and put it on my tongue. The vanilla snow was sweet and cold and light, unlike anything I had ever tasted. The two of us finished eating the snow together as we watched the wind swirl the wall of flakes, filling the yard quickly.

We didn’t notice when the power went out, but soon neighbors were knocking at the door. They addressed Grandmom as “Madrina,” a form of respect that they seldom used. “Can we stay with you?” they asked humbly. She invited them to come out of the blizzard. The house filled with people who had laughed at our old-fashioned ways. Some brought food with them, the dinners they couldn’t cook on their modern electric ranges, and my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother melded the contributions and what we had in our cupboards into many meals because the storm lasted four days.

 It was a week before the power returned, a week when our house almost burst at the seams. People slept on chairs, the sofa, the floor. Meals were served in shifts, but there was a place for everyone, and no one went hungry because my great-grandmother had filled shelves with the vegetables she had canned from her garden in the back yard, and she shared her bounty.

I can’t remember the pasta or the soups or the stews that we shared that week, but I can still taste the vanilla snow, even though my own attempts to make it have never succeeded.

7 thoughts on “The Taste of Snow

  1. I LOVE this memory slice, Linda. Vanilla snow sounds delicious. BUT, it sounds like it wasn’t just the food, but also the company you had too. Thanks for sharing it here!

    BTW: As you probably have seen in my daily call for slice of life stories, I’m trying to inspire people with other slicers’ writing daily. May I link to this story in my “be inspired” spot one day this month? If so, please email me at stacey{at}staceyshubitz{dot}com. THANKS!

  2. What a lovely, heartwarming memory. I especially liked when you wrote about the irony of your family’s old-fashioned ways serving the rest of the community when their ultra modern appliances didn’t have the needed electricity to make them run. Lots of lessons in this post.

  3. I loved this story and I remember the blizzard. Coincidentally, my grandparents had the only power on my block. I remember walking down the street (we lived a block away) trying not to step on downed power lines, buried in at least four feet of snow. My pregnant mother carried her mother’s “budgy” and my dad carryied my little brother, Henry. I had my meemaw’s Pekingese on a leash. We were minding her pets while she was in England, nanny to tennis pro (something) Perry’s new baby, Penny. When we opened the front door, it stopped, bumping into John Skershock from across the street lying on the floor, staking his claim. There were lots of neighbors in Granny and PopPop’s house. It was the only place on the block with heat. I don’t remember much else except being ushered away from the crowd to the front bedroom, where my parents and I staked our own claim. I’ll have to see what my mom remembers about this. Thanks for writing and jogging my mem ory. ~Susan

  4. Pingback: Day 30 of the March SOLSC! #sol14 | TWO WRITING TEACHERS

    • Thanks, Judy! You have been key in shaping my personal writing. It has been fun participating. Since this is my first try, I’m still learning how to navigate.

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